The classroom lesson for January is all about the Sacrament of Matrimony and there are many options featuring the Marriage of the Virgin or the Wedding Feast at Cana, but I think I’m going to recommend something more liturgically-based this month.
I encourage you to spend some time during your opening prayer reminding your students that the celebration of Christmas is longer than one day. You’ll probably find that some of them will be surprised to hear it!
There are so many details in this work by Francisco Zurbaran.
What’s going on here?
- In the foreground, we see a very richly dressed man kneeling down in front of an infant.
- He’s wearing a cloak made of brocade and ermine, and it seems to be trimmed in gold; there’s a servant boy holding the train up off the ground, but the man doesn’t seem to care about the gown at all since his entire focus is on the baby.
- He’s taken off his crown and it’s on the ground. Ask your students what kind of man would wear a crown.
- Why would he be kneeling? (Are there times we kneel for the same reason?)
- Who is on the right side of the picture? (Joseph and Mary) Joseph, in particular, is in the background and slightly above the other members of his family, symbolizing his protection over them.
- Look at the faces. All but two are in varying degrees of shadow. Whose are fully lit? (Jesus and Mary) Why? (Possible reason: they are without sin so God’s light can shine most perfectly through them.)
- There are two other very richly dressed men in this picture. Who do you think these three men are?
- Read the relevant parts from Matthew 2 and open (or close) your class with a prayer of worship to Christ, who left the glories of heaven to come to earth for our salvation!
It may also be worth noting that the artist was from 17th-century Spain and the figures are dressed as royalty and peasants from that time and location would be.
Also, the Catechism teaches that the worship of these pagans signifies that Christ came for the salvation of everyone and not just the Jewish people. Read CCC 528 for details.